It's Time to Create Internships That Are a Win-Win for Employers and Job Seekers
By : Marianne Griebler
Todays marketing communications employer wants to know how a new graduate will perform on the job, not just in the classroom. By graduation you need to have the following in your back pocket:
- a portfolio as well as a degree, including a life on social media
- a demonstrated ability to think strategically and promotionally when crafting content
- references that attest to competence at meeting tough deadlines with content focused on the bottom line
As important, the freshly minted graduate needs to answer some tough questions:
Can I really do the work?
Do I want to do the work?
If the above answers are yes, then what kind of company do I want to work for?
Internships can help a potential job seeker check all those boxes. But the internship model of old, deeply rooted in privilege and nepotism, is broken. We have to think differently about the value of an internship to both to employer and job seeker, and consider timing too. Internships during high school may offer the greatest potential in helping a student find a career path and minimize post-graduation debt load.
Pay interns real money and give them real responsibility.
Im not talking about the stereotypical internships of old, where college students cleaned out filing cabinets, brewed coffee and nearly died of boredom. Im talking about internships in the apprenticeship model, where the intern learns how it feels to crank out honest-to-God-content and see it come to life on screen or in print.
That means paying a decent wage too. The problem with internships, historically, is that they've smacked of elitism. (Who can afford to work for free? Uh, not too many of us.) Darren Walker recently wrote in the New York Times that it's time to level the playing field by offering fair compensation. "Simply by making them more accessible to all, we can narrow the inequality gap while widening the circle of opportunity, long after the summer ends," he says.
Many employers are finding that making the change has multiple pay-offs. Adam Bednar, Content Marketing Team Manager at TMP Worldwide, says an internship allows an employer and an intern to do a test drive and make an educated decision about whether or not to commit to a longer-term relationship. TMP does that by giving interns the same level of responsibility as full-time employees and treating them as colleagues from day one ... which means they get a paycheck too.
"They're made aware of daily expectations and trained in the same manner as the rest of the team," says Bednar. "They're expected to chart their own course, plan their daily workload and work pretty autonomously.
"More than any technical skill or expertise, being able to work on your own or in a team is a crucial skill. Thats what were really teaching to our interns." It's also the kind of proven soft skills that make a hiring manager jump for joy.
And Bednar observes, it's how "countless interns who have proven themselves became full-time TMP employees. Again, an internship is only as rewarding as you make it. If you put in the time and work, you'll be rewarded at the end of the program."
Internships answer the question: Do I really want to do this all day long?
I got lucky. From my first job as a junior copywriter at a small insurance company, I found that I loved the challenge of piecing together words to create an irresistible pitch for a product or service. I still do.
But here's the thing. One of lifes most annoying realities is that you can be really, really talented at something (in this case, writing) and hate the reality of grinding out content 40+ hours a week.
On the job you have to balance deadlines, bosses, budgets and the fatigue of being creative on demand. I liken the experience to a juggling act that involves a sharp knife, an alarm clock and one or two hand grenades. And no, you can't drop any of them.
Marketing communications is also not a career for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. Even the best copy gets edited and sometimes (ouch) torn to shreds. Writing is a lonely business, because any content that gets created by committee is inevitably the worst. It's just you, the screen and the blinking cursor, kid. Few sights are more frightening when you have a looming deadline.
Finally, the ability to write promotionally, to see the world as an opportunity to persuade and compel, is not the same as writing academically. The fine art of the pitch can't really be taught. It requires a deep, deep love for the power of language and an inexhaustible energy for playing with words the way you might fiddle with a Rubik's Cube.
Lydia Ramsey, a reporter for Business Insider, learned that she loved all of the above during a paid internship at the same organization during her senior year at Northwestern.
"I was really able to carve out my beat," Ramsey says. "I loved how much freedom I had to pitch stories, and I never felt like I was writing something I didn't want to. I was given a lot of responsibility as an intern, so by the end, I already felt equipped to take on a full-time gig."
How would she counsel new job seekers? "I was given the advice early on in my internship that the best way to get hired is to make yourself invaluable," Ramsey says. "So I tried my best to do that, by taking on big stories and making an impact with my reporting. Taking on responsibility as an intern made it clear that I could do the full-time job."
And Business Insider was happy to hire her when she graduated in 2015.
A student's first internship should be in high school ... before finalizing post-graduation plans.
Ken Wallace, superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207 in suburban Chicago, thinks that our timing is off when it comes to internships. He believes students need to start gaining that kind of practical on-the-job experience before they even leave high school.
Wallace's long-term goal is to have 100% of his high-school students graduate with an internship, shadowing or mentoring experience under their belts. His district has a diverse population, with students speaking Tagalog, Gujarati, Arabic, Malayalam, Assyrian and Urdu in addition to Spanish and Polish. Low-income students comprise 46.4% of the student body. And Wallace is confident that with the right guidance, each and every one has the potential for a satisfying career.
"If you're a student who really wants to go into marketing, let's say, we want to help you get an internships that gets you a real sense of what that job looks like," says Wallace. "The worse thing -- or maybe the best thing -- is that you say 'I could never do that.' There's real value in that information. Or maybe the internship confirms that this is the job that matches your skills, passion and interest." And the best time to have that knowledge is before making post-high school plans.
Wallace also thinks it's a mistake to make a four-year university degree the default option for every student. Perhaps the right solution is a two-year community college, an apprenticeship or a certificate program. Having a sense of focus even before walking across the stage at graduation helps students feel good about their chances for success in the next stage in their lives. It may even reduce their eventual debt load.
District 207 is on the cutting edge with this program and Wallace knows this is brand-new territory for a high-school administrator. His job duties are changing as a result; in order to launch an internship program on this scale, Wallace and his team are spending a lot of time in conversation with local business owners. But he feels so passionately about his responsibility to help students succeed in life, not just in high school, that he's willing to put considerable energy behind his vision
"We have an obligation to serve our students, families and communities better," says Wallace.
"We all know young adults for whom the conventional model has not worked. These stories are everywhere. So our goal is to get our career coaching right for as many students as possible. That means helping them find a learning path that offers a good living, leaving high school prepared to learn and lead. That's the possibility when we help them find the perfect intersection of talents, dreams and career opportunities."
From : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-time-create-internships-win-win-employers-job-seekers-griebler
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